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Last updated: 5 Apr 2022

Fall back to AWS CloudFront

There is a backup Content Delivery Network (CDN) that can be used if Fastly is down. This backup CDN is currently provided by AWS CloudFront.

Important GOV.UK will be served by static mirrors and not the origin of GOV.UK if you fallback to the backup CDN. This is significantly degraded service compared to the primary CDN. Major features such as search, smart answers, and postcode lookups will not work when using the secondary CDN.

Fail over checklist

  • Confirm that Fastly is the cause of the incident (check https://status.fastly.com/ and keep an eye on twitter - if there’s a major Fastly outage there will be a lot of noise)
  • Sign in to the AWS console as an admin (gds aws govuk-production-admin -l, or however you prefer to sign in to AWS)
  • Sign in to the GCP console
  • Open the following four pages as separate tabs:
  • Because the secondary CDN provides degraded service we have a grace period before failing over
    • Escalate to GOV.UK SMT as soon as you begin to consider failing over
    • For a major Fastly outage (more than 30% of requests failing) wait 15 minutes (from the start of the incident) and then start the fail over
    • For a minor Fastly outage (less than 30% of requests failing) wait at least 15 minutes (from the start of the incident) before failing over - discuss the decision with the GOV.UK SMT Escalations person
  • While you wait, confirm the new CNAMES for www-cdn.production.govuk.service.gov.uk and assets.publishing.service.gov.uk
    • This Draft PR to Failover to AWS CloudFront shows the CNAMES you need to change, and how to test that they are correct
    • You can also get the CNAMEs to use for the secondary CDN from the AWS CLI:
      # www.gov.uk
      gds aws govuk-production-readonly aws cloudfront list-distributions --query "DistributionList.Items[?Comment=='WWW'].DomainName | [0]"
      # assets.publishing.service.gov.uk
      gds aws govuk-production-readonly aws cloudfront list-distributions --query "DistributionList.Items[?Comment=='Assets'].DomainName | [0]"
    • The records should look like d0000000000000.cloudfront.net. (with 0s replaced with letters and numbers)
  • When you are ready to fail over:
    • Manually update the CNAME record for www-cdn.production.govuk.service.gov.uk in GCP and AWS
    • Manually update the CNAME record for assets.publishing.service.gov.uk in GCP and AWS
  • After failing over manually:
  • Once you’ve failed over, keep a close eye on Fastly’s status
  • As soon as you are confident that Fastly has recovered